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Image credit: The Autistic Network for Community Achievement

Jonathan Andrews: Adaptability and the importance of self-care

Jonathan Andrews: Adaptability and the importance of self-care

Leading Change in Practice blog

Image above: Jonathan Andrews making his acceptance speech at the World Autism Awards

Fresh from winning an international award for his work with autistic people, Queen's Young Leader, Jonathan Andrews reflects on how the Leading Change course never stops helping him to succeed.

I was delighted to travel to Vancouver, Canada, at the start of October to represent the United Kingdom at the World Autism Awards – and even more delighted when it was announced that I’d won Entrepreneur of the Year!

As someone with a real commitment and passion for improving the life chances of autistic people – particularly around employment  this was wonderful recognition and a powerful tool to use in future advocacy.

But I’m under no illusion that I was able to win because of passion alone. Caring about something doesn’t mean you’ll effect real change.

It was because I was able to channel that passion into meaningful activities, which connected with people who have the power to change things, and with others who then felt emboldened to lend their support.

These were skills honed through several of the modules of Leading Change.

The mock pitch

For Module 5, for example, Queen’s Young Leaders had to team up in groups of three or more, developing a mock pitch for funding to carry out an activity.

I partnered with fellow Queen's Young Leaders from India and the UK, Devika Malik and Ella McKenzie.

Reviewers fed back that we had a great project, that fit within the disability focus of several Queen’s Young Leaders programmes. The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust has a special mission to help people with disabilities pan-Commonwealth, and recent research has indicated a plurality of Queen’s Young Leaders are working on disability projects.

The feedback we received was also incredibly useful, as it provided a fresh look at our work from more experienced eyes. The requests for more detail came in places we didn’t necessarily expect. And phrases which I’d found worked in one environment  as denoting someone who thought about the bigger picture  could be less than helpful when it came to the fine detail of funding, as they could be considered to be too broad-brush.

Jonathan receives his World Autism Award for Entrepreneur of the Year

Jonathan receives his World Autism Award for Entrepreneur of the Year from judges and ambassadors. Image credit: The Autistic Network for Community Achievement

The Island

Another module, called "The Island", encouraged Queen’s Young Leaders to find time for solitude and self reflection.

By some irony, this coincided with me beginning my job as a trainee solicitor, which meant I was spending a lot more time rushing around and working closely with several different people most hours of most days – the opposite of solitude, you might think.

But the module encouraged me to find the time in the days when I was able to focus on myself – and to really consider what it was I was doing, and why I was doing it.

It massively helped. I found that when I took a moment to step back and consider my wellbeing, I ended up making more sensible decisions which may have taken slightly longer to come to, but which largely cut down the work I’d need to do after.

So, as I go on to continue advocating for the inclusion of autistic people across business and society, I’ll have Leading Change to thank for teaching adaptability and the importance of self-care.